An ERISA Lawyer Will Protect Your Employee Benefits
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was one of the most important laws ever enacted to protect employee benefits. ERISA was passed by the federal government in 1974 and sets minimum standards for pension plans and most health plans offered by private companies, including voluntary plans established for the protection of workers’ health and retirement security. If you are covered by ERISA and those in charge of your benefits plan have breached their obligations to you, you need to take legal action. ERISA is a broad law, but it is also a complex law. You need an ERISA lawyer who understands all of the protections granted to employees and who is qualified to help you explore all possible avenues for legal recourse.
How Does ERISA Protect Employees?
ERISA does a number of different things including:
- Requiring companies that establish voluntary pension or health plans to provide information to employees about the plan, including details about funding and plan features
- Establishing a fiduciary responsibility for all plan managers and all those who are in control of plan assets. Fiduciaries are required to operate pension plans by solely acting in the best interests of plan participants. Requirements include acting prudently when making investment decisions, following plan document terms, minimizing risk by diversifying investments, and limiting plan expenses
- Mandating that all plans include a grievance and appeals process for participants to make claims if they believe they are being denied promised benefits
- Creating a cause of action, allowing plaintiffs to file civil lawsuits to obtain promised benefits and to recover for breaches of fiduciary duty
ERISA has been amended numerous times since the passage of the law in 1974. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is one amendment to ERISA, which gives employees the right to retain group health insurance for a period of time after a job loss or certain other events. Another amendment to ERISA is the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects employee privacy and prohibits discrimination on the basis of health coverage.
What Does an ERISA Lawyer Do?
Under ERISA, “plan fiduciaries” are required to meet certain standards. ERISA generally defines a “plan fiduciary” as any person or entity who exercises discretionary authority in administering or managing the plan or controlling the plan’s assets. ERISA also provides certain rights to employees participating in the plan. One of the responsibilities of an ERISA lawyer is to check to see if your rights were protected. These rights include:
- The Full and Honest Disclosure of Key Information. Plan fiduciaries must furnish participants with complete and accurate information about the plan’s features and funding and the company’s operations and financial condition. Plan fiduciaries are required to provide information to participants regularly and automatically and often free of charge.
- The Establishment and Abidance by an Appropriate Standard of Conduct. ERISA holds plan fiduciaries accountable for abiding by an appropriate standard of conduct. Fiduciaries who fail to comply with these standards of conduct may be held responsible for restoring any losses to the plan, or for restoring any profits made through improper use of plan assets.
- Remedies in Federal Court for Violations of ERISA. Plan participants have the right to seek remedies in federal court for violations of ERISA duties by plan fiduciaries. When a plan fiduciary breaches his/her duties under ERISA, a court may take whatever action is appropriate, including removing the fiduciary.
- Minimum Standards for Participation, Vesting, Benefit Accrual and Funding. ERISA laws define how long an employee may be required to work in order to be eligible to participate in the employer plan, accumulate benefits and have non-forfeitable rights to the benefits. ERISA also sets forth detailed rules requiring employers to provide sufficient funding for their plans.
- Payment Guarantees of Certain Benefits. ERISA guarantees the payment of certain pension benefits when a plan is terminated (ends). These payments are made through the federally chartered corporation established under ERISA, known as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). When a plan terminates without sufficient funds to pay all pension benefits, the PBGC assumes the responsibility for paying these benefits.
Do You Need an ERISA Attorney to Help You?
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act establishes a broad array of protections to workers, including imposing a fiduciary duty on managers of employee pension plans. The protections put forth in ERISA are extensive and employees who face losses and believe their employer or plan manager was at fault are covered in a lot of different situations.
If you have a benefits plan through a private company, ERISA gives you a right to sue for benefits and/or breach of fiduciary duty. To determine if you could have a claim, consider the following:
- Do you work for a private employer? ERISA doesn’t usually cover churches or government employers.
- Has your employer voluntarily established a pension or health plan? The Act covers virtually all types of pension plans, including 401Ks, other defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans. The ERISA does not cover plans established or maintained only to comply with disability, workers’ compensation and unemployment laws.
- Have plan managers failed to act in your best interests? All managers and advisors have a fiduciary duty, which means they have the highest duty under the law to act on the behalf of plan participants.
- Have you suffered significant investment losses in a pension plan and/or due to investment of company stock? If so, you could have a claim if you weren’t warned of the risks, if investments were imprudent or not monitored or if company officers were responsible for a fall in company stock prices.
- Have you been fired to prevent you from obtaining any promised benefits or have you been fired for raising concerns about ERISA violations? The Act has whistleblower protections as well as laws preventing the termination of workers for the purposes of avoiding paying benefits.
- Have you been provided with plan documents and information about pension plans and other benefits? ERISA requires disclosures and plan information be provided to pension plan participants.
Answering these questions are a good start to help you determine if you need help from ERISA lawyers, but there are many other situations where you could have a claim under ERISA. If you believe you’ve been denied any workplace benefit or suffered any loss of pension assets due to an employer or pension plan manager’s actions, call Zamansky LLC today to see if an ERISA lawyer can help you with a claim.
Under ERISA, employees have the right to bring an action when a breach of a fiduciary duty results in losses to their retirement savings. ERISA requires that companies act prudently, honestly and in the best interests of employees when managing and investing retirement plan assets.
When a company continues to offer employees its own stock as a plan investment option, despite the fact that the company is in peril, employees may be able to bring suit for negligent or improper management decisions. Under ERISA, plan fiduciaries have a duty to protect employees by suspending the purchase of company stock through 401(k) and other employer-sponsored plans when they know, or should know, that the company’s stock price is dropping sharply or is likely to crash.
Zamansky LLC is one of the leading law firms specializing in securities fraud and ERISA class action litigation. Each investment losses lawyer at our firm represents both individual and institutional investors. Our securities fraud law firm is nationally recognized for our ability to aggressively prosecute cases and recover losses.
Three Decades of Financial Services and ERISA Litigation Experience
Zamansky LLC is a full-service firm experienced in ERISA claims, financial services litigation and arbitration. Firm founder Jacob Zamansky has been representing clients in a wide variety of ERISA claims and securities matters for more than three decades, and is routinely cited by the media on issues related to securities litigation and employee benefits.
ERISA requires employers to adequately fund employee pensions; imposes a fiduciary duty on plan managers; and mandates that employees be notified of all changes to benefits or plan terms. Employers are barred by ERISA from failure to fulfill their legal and fiduciary obligations to workers. ERISA obligations imposed on employers extend to:
- Defined benefit pension plans
- 401(k) plans offered through employers
- Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs)
- Medical, disability, and health benefits programs offered through employers
Failures on the part of employers or plan managers can result in civil and criminal action, with civil lawsuits aimed at allowing employees full financial recovery for losses. Because of the strong legal and financial backgrounds of our ERISA attorneys, Zamansky, LLC is uniquely qualified to represent clients in ERISA cases.
An ERISA Attorney Can Help Employees Recover Losses in Class Action Claims
Class actions are “mass tort” cases, which mean many plaintiffs join their cases to form one big claim. Class action lawsuits allow individual employees who suffer losses to recover their damages without having to bring individual cases. The court must certify a class action lawsuit and all plaintiffs must have suffered substantially similar harm. Employees can choose to opt into the class action or recover compensation based on damages awarded by juries (or based on a settlement negotiated to resolve the ERISA class action). Those who opt out will have the opportunity to file their own civil lawsuit to seek compensation.
When an ERISA class action lawsuit is brought against those who breached their duties to employees, a lot is at stake. Class action members are counting on the claim to help them recover because they cannot bring another lawsuit based on the same breach. Their future hinges on what happens in the class action litigation. An experienced ERISA lawyer must serve as lead counsel in a class action to guide the case through the court system and make informed legal decisions to protect the interests of all involved employees.
Beyond ERISA: How an ERISA Lawyer Can Help with Related Retirement and Pension Issues
Bringing a case under ERISA is just one of the options available if you are deprived of employer-sponsored benefits. When the money you count on for your retirement is lost or mismanaged, our firm can help you explore all possible options for recovery including:
- 401(k) Plan Fee Litigation – Lawsuits when excessive fees charged by plan administrators affect the balance of employee 401K plans.
- Company Stock Litigation – Lawsuits against companies that provide inaccurate financial statements or misleading information about stock offerings.
- ERISA Claims Monitoring – ERISA claims arising from plan fiduciaries’ failure to monitor investments.
- Fiduciary Nondisclosure and Misrepresentation Claims – Lawsuits against employers who improperly reduce benefits or change plan terms without proper notice.
- Pension Plan Litigation – Lawsuits against employers who underfund pension funds or who use pension money for other business expenditures.
- Lawsuits against brokerage firms and financial advisors for negligent research and inappropriate investment decisions when managing pension funds.
The media and professional business publications turn to Zamansky, LLC for commentary while clients turn to the firm for professional advice and legal representation in ERISA class actions, ERISA claims monitoring, and all other pension and benefits matters. We aggressively advocate to ensure that employees secure the benefits they worked for and counted on for retirement. Contact an ERISA attorney at our firm today for advice and representation in your ERISA matter.